Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Little or Big SH?T: Resource or Hazard?

Worldwide handling our collective excrement there is no one silver bullet. Each person disposes of 1/4 of pound of feces each day and about a quart of urine. Promoting best management practices (BMPs) for these biosolids—also known as sludge--will lessen water pollution and safeguard public health.

Yes it a Herculean  issue.  No longer do we have the fifth labor of Hercules.  Just in one day he cleaned the stable of 3000 cattle for King Augeas breaking two walls and diverting the river through cattle yard that had been there for three decades. 

In 2013, with almost 7 billion people worldwide, this amounts to about 400 million metric tons a year. Add to this add 1.4 billion cattle, 19 billion chicken, 1 billion pigs, and 1.8 billion goats and sheep or 14 billion metric tons of animals. This does not include all the wildlife that also adds to this crap.  If you address the major public health issue about one third of population (2.5 billion people) lack clean drinking water while 2 million children die every year from diarrhea

One innovation is happening in China.  They have over large 173 bio-gas plants and 748 large to medium bio-digesters that handle 20 million metric tons of sewage producing 200 million cubic meters of methane gas.  Integrating biosolids into a new resource takes ingenuity and political will

Today over 16,000 sewage treatment facilities serve nearly 190 million Americans (72% percent of the U.S. population—not counting those with decentralized septic and wastewater systems). In addition, these sewage treatment and collection facilities serve thousands of industrial and commercial establishments. 

Roughly eight million dry metric tons of biosolids are annually produced or about 70 pounds per person per year. About 54 percent of these biosolids are land applied as fertilizer or as soil conditioner.

Biosolids range from 70 percent to greater than 98 percent water content. The dry matter in biosolids consists mostly of inert minerals (i.e., sand and silica) or biological materials comprised of fat, protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Biosolids also contain trace amounts of heavy metals and organic chemicals. And, biosolids contain varying levels of metals, pathogenic organisms, vector (e.g., insects and rodents) attractants and odor-causing substances that may be harmful. These metals, organic chemicals and pathogens can pose a threat to human health unless the biosolids are sufficiently processed and properly managed.

Part 503 Biosolid Rule allows land application (spreading) of sewage sludge (also known as sludge) as fertilizer or to condition the soil.  There are three main options (each with limitations) to dispose of wastewater and sludge: landfilling, incineration, and land-spreading. The EPA has focused on promoting the use of sludge for land application. In 1993, the EPA published the 503 Sludge Rule setting standards for the use or disposal of sewage

The EPA’s standards have generated controversy in the scientific and agricultural communities, as well as with the general public. Although the 503 Sludge Rule establishes minimum quality standards for biosolids to be land applied, many citizens and scientists question the adequacy of these standards. Some have also proposed more stringent standards, additional source separation and greater pretreatment of contaminants. Various scientists expressed concerns about the effects on humans from contaminants concentrated in the sludge during treatment. Numerous citizens that either work with, or live near, sludge have voiced these same concerns.

Several years ago the EPA Inspector General found: “EPA does not have an effective program for ensuring compliance with the land application requirements of the 503 rules. …While EPA promotes land application, they cannot ensure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment.”

One promising organization is the Resilience Alliance is a research organization comprised of scientists and practitioners from many disciplines who collaborate to explore the dynamics of social-ecological systems (www.resalliance.org).

Because of the possible health and safety implications if land applications of biosolids are improperly performed, some localities have either banned the practice, or are developing stricter regulations. 

In conclusion safe application of biosolids requires assertive pre-treatment pollution prevention, adequate monitoring testing, soil surveys, screening of the application area so as to safeguard contamination to water resources and other measures to insure that sludge does not impact public health or the environment. 

The debate will continue as to how serious are the risks in the land applications of biosolids. Once we learn to better emulate nature we will prosper since all ecosystems have three things: producers, consumers and decomposers. Let's invest in many viable forms of composting to regain this mismanaged resource

* Certain facts come from- Origin of Feces, David Waltner-Toews, ECW Press, 2013

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Green Diet, to Be Free

What life choices you make is linked to your very freedom.  Prosper and become lean and green. A green liberation awakens us to become economically, and ecologically responsive. Simply, if you engage in wholesome action that is beneficial to all, your become less imprisoned by your harmful habits. Let's shift from being consumers to becoming conservers.  Embrace a green diet, lessening both our waste and waists. 

Yes, be green and lessen your chances of HEART ATTACK with a more wholesome diet for the sake of our planet. When you take care of the world, you also help yourself. Since what goes around, comes around, our individual actions directly have consequences that reflect back on us. Over-consuming on our planet creates lots of personal and global suffering besides breaking our collective heart.   Your courage becomes evident once you quiet your mind and listen to your heart.  Show reverence for conserving by taking the H from the end of eartH and place in front spelling Heart, since they are interconnected. 

The results of human overindulgence are clear. Excessive overeating can lead not only to obesity, but also to all other health dangers that result from obesity—a fact well documented. Four of our leading causes of death in America are related to overweight, poor diet and lack of exercise.  These include the three leading closely related causes of death—heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Nature deficit syndrome is another health issue. As we become more disconnected from our ecosystems we participate less often in various enjoyable physical activities. Less physical activity results in less energy, and a vicious cycle of declining physical activity and health occurs. 

America's very pursuit of happiness is in question. You are the precious change agent to preserve our land.  Less pollution equals greater well being. Exercise for greater sanity, peace, and future possibility with mindful living. Your happiness is tied to creative lifestyle that benefits rather than depletes. Go beyond the price of things,  and embrace the value of nature's priceless worth.

Be responsible - lessen your impact and better your world.  Be free,  exercise all sorts of deeds consistent with what you really value. Lessen consumption and enhance your well being.  More green, lean you enjoy the benefits of more fun less, stuff.  Celebrate by giving the best to the world, and reap its amazing happy returns.   Be free and treasure the benefits of your green diet.